It's not like the movies...
and that's OK
The other day, in one of my chat groups, a first time mum-to-be asked the million dollar question:
What if I am a terrible mother? What if my actions screw up this tiny human for the rest of their life? What if I don’t love them as soon as they are born?”
Everyone around her had been telling her those phrases we all hear, “you’ll be a fantastic mum”, “you’ll just know what to do”, “you’ll love your baby immediately.”
The thing is, that’s not helpful. It’s not true. And for any mother unsure what to expect and uncertain about her abilities, it can be really damaging.
To the beautiful, young, first time mum, I offer you this:
Parenthood is not like the movies – and that’s ok.
Blown away; or overwhelmed?
I was told exactly the same the first time I was pregnant. “It’ll all be fine. You’ll nail it, you’ll know what to do. There’s nothing quite like your own baby, it’s amazing.”
When my firstborn arrived, I was blown away, not with love and knowledge and wisdom, but with just how big of a change it was to suddenly have this small human around…and how I had no idea what to do with him…and a fair amount of disbelief that he was there and ok after the anxious rollercoaster of pregnancy. Everyone around us fell deeply in love with him. Sure, I loved him, and I wanted to keep him safe. But I was so terrified of anything happening to him that I couldn’t bring myself to really engage with him “just in case”.
In time I learned that this is so common, but distressingly not part of the story that society tells us about having children. Like the mum in my chat group, I honestly thought I was the only person to feel like that. It was terrifying.
I wasn’t blown away by motherhood. Actually, I was overwhelmed – but it took time for me to see it, and to work through it.
Some things never change
Even now, I still worry about my firstborn. 4 years on I’m constantly second-guessing whether decisions we’ve made in how to parent him are setting him up for life in the right way. Some days I’ll have doubts about particular aspects of parenting, usually when he’s pushing a particular boundary or exploring a particular trait. But then there are moments, when it becomes clear that he is a good human being, that give me hope that things are ok after all.
Despite the journey of the last few years, it’s the same with the baby currently bouncing around in my puku. There’s many things I’d like to try and do a bit differently, and they’ll be different to our first child; so it’s going to be another rollercoaster of how to get to know another different person, how to parent them, and how to parent two at once….wow. It’s scary.
So how to get through it?
To the beautiful, young, first time mum already doubting her abilities and worrying about whether she can do it, I offer you this as a starting point:
The biggest thing I’ve learned so far as a mother, and get reminded of every day?
Don’t set your bar too high. Not every day will be perfect. Not every day will suck balls. Some days will just pass.
Sometimes you’ll get it right and feel like you’re flying; others you’ll feel like everything you do is getting beaten back.
Kids are resilient. Show them love and consistency, and most other things will follow suit.
The fact you’re worrying about this is a good thing. The parents who don’t have any of this worry at all, even just a bit, are usually the ones with problems.
And a final thing
The tales of “love at first sight”, being besotted with your baby from the moment you lay eyes on them, and that burning flame of maternal love?
It’s a thing that society forces on us.
Some people get it like that, and it’s amazing for them. Others take time to bond and get into the swing of things. Some people have “beautiful” labours which mean they are fully functional at the end of it; others have epic journeys and are so bloody exhausted from it that it’s a bit much to expect they can cope with themselves never mind another dependent human.
Find your village. Surround yourself with people who love you, listen to you, and cheer you on. Whether online, real world, friends or support groups.
Whatever way it goes for you, remember that it will be ok.
Keep talking, and we’ll keep listening xxx